The Book of Wisdom (1:13-15, 2:23-24) reminds us that “God does NOT rejoice in the destruction of the living.” God does not call for people to be killed in his name. Any religious body that says God “hates” i.e., Westboro Baptist Church is WRONG. Any religious group that says God “wants infidels killed to give him glory” (i.e., ISIS or radical Islam) is MISINTERPRETING GOD’s WORD and therefore SINFUL. If God is God, then there can be no evil within him because as all major religions profess, “God is all loving, all good, all powerful, all merciful, all forgiving, all holy, etc.” Any person that does evil in the name of God is not crazy, they are not mentally ill, they are not sick. They are EVIL and deserve punishment.
Those who kill in the name of God are not God’s messengers or representatives, they are doing the will of the Evil One that is the devil. God does not rejoice in the victims from Tunisia, France or Kuwait. We need to stop excusing evil and hatred and violence by saying it’s the work of a few misguided individuals. NO. We need to take decisive action at eliminating that which causes people to think that God desires destruction in his name.
Let me reiterate: God does not will the destruction of humankind. Those who do evil in God’s name are not mentally ill. They are evil, pure and simple.
That being said, the shooter in the Charleston church massacre was not mentally ill either. He also is evil. He allowed his prejudice of black people to fester into racism to eventually boil over into an act of violence. The response from lawmakers and political pundits is to blame the Confederate Flag. The flag is a symbol of a bloody civil war the causes of which are myriad and deep. We can argue whether or not it should be flown; however, the flag DID NOT cause Dylann Roof to shoot up a church bible study class. Guns did not cause Roof to kill. His discriminatory, bigoted, racist viewpoints bubbling over into violence and hatred which caused him to plan an attack on innocent people.
When I was a young priest, we had a workshop on racism. A white priest giving one of the talks stated, “If you are white, you are automatically a racist.” (repeat) Really? That means I am incapable of changing and therefore I can never change my views. Even the psalmist (30:2, 4-6, 11-13) recognizes that the Lord has rescued him and therefore he praises the Lord. As the first stanza says “O Lord, you brought me up from the netherworld; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.”
Racism, like sexism, like ageism, like any discriminatory or bigoted viewpoint is learned behavior. You have to be taught to be racist. As Lt. Cable sings in the musical South Pacific:
You’ve got to be taught To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid, Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade, You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate, You’ve got to be carefully taught!
Dylann Roof was carefully taught to blame, to hate, to revile, to hurt. He was taught, not by a flag, but by a society that still feels it’s okay to blame someone else for your failures instead of owning up to your mistakes. He was taught that it is acceptable to put someone else down in order to build yourself up. He never heard the words from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (8:7, 9, 13-15) “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” Jesus taught us to humble ourselves in order to build others up. Furthermore, Paul goes on, “Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs that there may be equality.”
The time has come for people of all races and ways of life to stop blaming others for their inability to succeed and to get off of their behinds and make something of themselves. Stop the rhetoric, stop the politicizing, stop the insanity of placing blame on inanimate objects and straw man arguments and start taking responsibility for your own actions and behaviors.
As Jesus says (Mark 5:21-43) to the little girl “Talitha koum” (Little girl, I say to you, arise!), I say to you “Arise.” Arise from your feelings of bigotry and hatred. Arise from your inaction and complacency. Arise from your blaming and pointing of fingers. Arise and do something. If you really want change and peace in the world, then start in your own homes, schools and businesses. Call out those who perpetrate hateful or bigoted comments. But before you do so, make sure that your comments and opinions are in line with the Gospel.
Finally I want to briefly address two other issues. First, the Pope’s Encyclical Laudato Si’. I recommend that you read it. The text is only about 75 pages long. It is very easy to read. You can download it for free from the Vatican website. Don’t just rely on what commentators have written or said. Educate yourselves. It is a beautiful document challenging us to care for one another, care for the earth, to care for the poor, care for the unborn and to take positive action steps to ensure that we continue to build up God’s kingdom here on earth. You may not agree with everything the Holy Father has to say, but at least think about what he does say.
Second, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court legalizing “gay marriage” across the United States, plenty of ink and pixels have been used in expressing reactions to the decision. Here are some facts:
- Originally, marriage was a way of uniting families. It was a civil act ordered toward the good of society. It was done as a way of helping society to grow by creating bonds of love and economy. It also provided for the creation of children.
- Over time, marriage came to be seen as a contractual obligation between two or more families who were joined by the union of their son with their daughter (or daughters).
- Jesus raised the union of a man and a woman to a sacrament. That is, marriage is not only a contract but a covenant. Also, it was restricted to a man and a woman (no more polygamous marriages).
- The early church followed the prescriptions of civil society regarding marriage. A civil marriage was “solemnized” when the already married couple came to the church to have their wedding blessed.
- In the United States, in some states, like Michigan, the priest or deacon acts as a civil as well as religious officiant. So we sign the marriage license. In other states and other countries, like Poland, a couple must first civilly marry and then come to a church or synagogue or mosque and then have a religious ceremony.
- While the legal interpretation of what marriage is has been altered, the sacramental definition has not. In order for a marriage to be considered “sacramental” that is a sacred act in which a baptized man and a baptized woman exchange their consent in the presence of the minister, mirroring the union of Christ with the Church.
- So, while a homosexual couple may civilly contract “marriage,” they cannot create a religious covenant based on what Jesus said and what the tradition of the Church has been for 2000 years.
- However, I do expect that there will be some challenges to our faith tradition, as well as the tradition of the Amish, the Mormons, the Orthodox Christians, the Strict observance Jews, and the Muslims.
- That being said, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states very clearly that we are to love our homosexual brothers and sisters, “they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
- At the same time, “these persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (CCC 2358).
- What does this mean right now? We are called to love all people. While we may not agree with their lifestyle, we must respect and acknowledge them as our brothers and sisters. If we have family members who have a same sex attraction, we are to love them, pray for them, and welcome them as best we are able.
- However, those who have same sex attraction should also respect those who do not condone or agree with their lifestyle. They too should accept, with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, those who find it difficult to come to terms with who they are. The statement, “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” goes both ways.
- If people really believe the “coexist” bumper sticker and profess true non-discrimination and profess a love of all people, that also means that they will accept and respect those who do not agree with the Supreme Court decision.
- The decision will have many ramifications. Hopefully, the rights which were given to some will not result in a backlash of removing the rights of others to practice their faith.
I conclude by reiterating what was said at the beginning. God does not rejoice in the destruction of the living. God made us in his image and destined us for glory. We are called to arise out of those ashes, those sicknesses, those viewpoints, those attitudes which prevent us from fully embracing God and loving others as Christ loved us. As St. Paul challenges us: “As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also.”
There will be more issues to be addressed and I’m sure people are afraid of what is to come. However, remember God is in charge. God’s will is and will prevail. We should not fear; rather, we should pray and continue the fight. May God bless us and the United States.